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Stew Cues: Network of contacts key to job hunting

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Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

The job market is slow this time of year, especially for new crew. Many boats are still in the Caribbean, but as they return to the states, there will be more chances for work. Whether boats are going to the Med, New England, Alaska, or staying in Florida, jobs will be opening up.  

One of the best ways to find a job is through a list of contacts. Many positions are not advertised. Instead, they are filled by word-of-mouth and being in the right place at the right time. People do business primarily with those they know, like and trust, so developing relationships is key. Yachting events and boat shows provide great opportunities to connect with others. The Triton, for example, offers  prospecting occasions throughout the year, such as Triton Expo on April 17 and the monthly Triton networking events.

It’s fun to get out and meet others, but when you’re looking for work and interacting with others to create opportunities, it can be scary. Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t just focus on meeting new friends, introduce yourself to event sponsors, crew agents and business owners. Take advantage of every opportunity to associate with those who can benefit your career. In yachting we say there are not six degrees of separation, but one. Everybody knows somebody and you never know where your first or your next job lies.

Support from others is vital and can help you avoid mistakes. Most people enjoy helping by providing knowledge and advice. They can make you feel more at ease and more familiar with the do’s and don’ts of the industry. On the other hand, not all advice is going to be correct, so listen with an open mind and take some time to absorb and filter what you have heard.  

Meeting the right person at the right time could lead to a referral for a job. When you introduce yourself, have a brief elevator speech prepared. This is a clear, short message that communicates who you are, what you are looking for, and how you can benefit a company or organization. It lasts about 30 seconds, the time it takes to ride an elevator. Your introduction should include prior work experience, why you are interested in yachting, and what kind of job you are looking for. Practice it in front of a mirror until you get comfortable.

Everyone brings transferable skills to the table. You may not see how your background fits in, but others may realize your potential and make an immediate match. Try to find a way to relate your previous experience into the conversation. Family boating, hospitality, event planning, bartending, flower arranging, babysitting and nanny experience are all good lead-ins to show the value you bring to a position. In yachting, finding the right fit is essential, and new connections may know about a job that is just right for you.

Networking is not just about what others can do for you, it’s about getting to know people. Conversation is a give and take. Keep it light and casual. Ask people about themselves and listen carefully. Hand out business cards with your basic information and a photo. Leave white space on the back for notes. When you exchange cards, make your own comments on the back regarding where and when you met. Then follow up appropriately.

Everyone you meet has been in your shoes at one time. Build a network to success. A simple conversation could help you get your foot in the door and provide an opportunity for a job. At the very least, you can start collecting contact information. Be professional, keep in touch and let people know what you are up to from time to time.

Add a personal touch by letting them know you are grateful for any help they give. A handwritten note, a phone call or even an email will set you apart from the crowd.

Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares more than 20 years experience as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht,” available at yachtstewsolutions.com. Comments are welcome below.

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